The Brattleboro Selectboard heard about a new, big grant for the skatepark project at Tuesday’s meeting, but it wasn’t enough to stop the re-scoping of the project and rejection of current bids. New timetable calls for a skatepark to be completed, maybe, by snowfall!
Heifers are permitted to Heifer this year, residents urge urgency on climate related matters, whistleblowers are now protected, the Emergency Plan has be readopted, financial matters attended to, and more.
The meeting is starting late, it seems.
Chair Brandie Starr had no remarks, other than thanking people for coming to the meeting. Town Manager Elwell had no remarks.
Tim Wessel – Christine Nolan – US Atty came and talked about drug arrests, and she praised what was going on in Brattleboro such as Project CARE. Great coordination between agencies.
Starr – I appreciated how they talked about law enforcement and lack of resources for prevention, recovery, treatment.
Public Participation –
Franz Reichsman – recent news out od DC that president is proposing to allow asylum seekers to come to sanctuary cities, and I hope Brattleboro would help accept asylum seekers.
Elwell – earlier this year you saw the full list up for renewal, and McNeill’s had some safety issues before we could approve the license. Request is that you make this conditional that all issues be resolved prior to issuing license.
Ray McNeill – we needed to do some repairs to sprinkler system and some electrical work in building. We’ve done it. Sprinkler is operable. Electric is about 75% complete. Should be done next week.
Wessel- – done by May 1 for a reinspection?
McNeill – yes.
Strolling of Heifers
Orly and Anne
Anne – it’s the Friday Festival now! Liquor is just for River Garden, plus specialty food people. Distillers add value to farms and it helps that way. New vendors are Hell’s Gate, and St. Johnsbury Distiller, and Wild Hart Distillery.
Daniel Quipp – if you don’t drink but are with someone who does, are there options for those people?
Anne – yes – other specialty drinks, soft drinks. Roped off for alcohol vendors, back by the deck. It’s very manageable.
Orly – and many food vendors.
Stroll – Outside Catering Permit for Whetstone Station (Saturday)
James Branagan and David Hiller – nice beer garden area with food while watching NECCA. Mocha Joes will also be there with us.
Liz McLoughlin – serving wine and beer at 9 am?
Hiller – not our practice, but we will set up then.
McLoughlin – could beer and wine be served later?
Branagan – yes, we could delay alcohol service until later.
McLoughlin – I’d prefer that, to start at more like 11 am? After the parade?
Hiller – we just want to be set up and prepared. Could we do 10am? We have to make sure carbonation is right coming out of the taps.
McLoughlin – but this is new and the first time it has been served this way.
Ivan – standard liquor license allows for starting at 8 am…
Quipp – I’m sober 5 years and know others, and it goes back to the issue of inclusion so people who don’t want to drink alcohol but want to hang out. Will there be bathrooms here? (yes) As for timing, in the UK, if the pub is open, people are there. I love the parade and family orientation of parade and hope it doesn’t get too sloppy, but I’m not one to deny someone a beer…
Hiller – we aren’t that kind of establishment. We have someone there checking ID’s and are in total control of the process. We shut people off. We also care about that.
Anne Latchis – I used to be in beer biz and we used the earlier time to set up.
Wessel – I’ve seen them operate at Harris Hill, the Food Truck roundup and have confidence. No string feelings about when it starts.
McLoughlin – happy to hear all of this, and about set up time required.
Catering permit from 9 to 4 pm is approved!
Water & Sewer Rates + Main Street Repairs II
Elwell – Main Street Water Main replacement. Steve can answer questions if you have any. You gave me permission to award this bid, and we did that. We got one bid, and it was checked out by DPW, and they recommend approval.
Zaluzny Construction will get $178,143 for the work.
Steve Barrett – we put this out on VT bid list, and gets sent to contractors, and hoped for more bids, but Zaluzny is close, with supplies.
Wessel – more expensive than we expected.
Barrett – yes – there’s a concrete road under, plus 5-6 inches of asphalt, plus sprinkler services and things under the road, plus traffic control. I’m comfortable with the number.
Quipp – how’s it going?
Barrett – we’ve had some communications issues – we shut off the water for a while and some residents didn’t get contacts. Anyone who wants to be on our press release schedule we’ll add you to the list. WE disconnected from old water main today, and now we’re up and running up the street.
Wessel – the blinking light – it is a bit tough for people on High Street.
Barrett – some people like it on flash, but we’ve seen a lot of respect and people giving courtesy for crossing. We leave it on flash because excavator is still in the road.
Starr – it’s the second reading of the rates.
Elwell – yes, what’s before you will maintain existing rates for one additional year for water & sewer.
Public Hearing opened.
Franz Reichsman – Finance Committee – the enterprise funds. The Parking, Utility and Solid Waste are independent of the budget process. The enterprise fund are controlled by Selectboard, not RTM. Nonetheless, the Finance Committee feels it should weigh in in coming years. Not sure what process is for bigger review of Utilities budget. It seems like it it while see major action in the coming year. What steps and what timeframe? When will people have access to the process. Another issue is costs in town has gone up in last 5 years. Much for sewage treatment, but we haven’t looked at expenses. Can’t see where money is going, and unanswered questions. The other big question – how do you see fund balance vs. debt? You have a $5 million fund balance. How does that fit in and how much needs to be raised for improvements in water supply. Those are issues.
Elwell – that’s a lot.
Franz – there is overlap in general fund budget and enterprise budgets. There are times money goes back and forth. How that is allocated or expensed?
Elwell – the transfer from enterprise to general fund offsets costs that general fund employees do on behalf of enterprise funds. It’s a percentage. As for opportunities to learn more? in near term, proposals for the FY 20 budgets will be presented at second May meeting – and in June – we’ll discuss a significant amount of information. The “bigger” review of Utilities Fund – a significant project that fits in with other capital work, which is reconstruction or replacement of water treatment plant from 1989. Probably replacement. A significant expense. Because the scope isn’t defined yet, it’s ok to maintain the $5 million balance. Increases have been significant on sewer side, but that will reverse, and rates will change to pay for the new improvements. We thought we’d be farther along by now…
Wessel- if anyone is interested, there was a debate over how much should be saved for this last year. Happy for a one year break. How much cash should we save, bond? We welcome public and finance committee’s advice.
Schoales – we want to avoid paying interest, so the savings will help with that.
Elwell – we don’t know what the water project will cost, but be a large scale expensive project, more than $5 million. Good to have a pool of cash to start with, but we’ll probably need to borrow. This reduces what we need to borrow.
Public Hearing closed.
Same Water & Sewer rates as currently in effect. Approved!
Unfinished - RTM Sustainability
Starr – many non-binding items came out of RTM, and we are discussing the $100k for energy efficiency or sustainability.
Schoales – thanks for waiting for me for this. This project keep growing and we need to move the process forward.
Oscar Heller and Michael Bosworth of Energy Committee
Schoales – this handout gives you a vision of sustainability – all kinds of things are included
Bosworth – towns staff this need in two ways – energy coordinators, or sustainability coordinators. Energy is more narrow. Sustainability is a wider, more global look. A different type of position. Sustainability can get into a lot of other things. At RTM wasn’t that specific – they said energy or sustainability. We’ve made contacts with other cities and towns and are learning from them. The other ting to keep in mind, and energy coordinator may be able to effect the bottom line, but sustainability is more important town-wide, to work with businesses and homeowners. Depends how municipality defines their function.
Heller – Energy Committee has discussed this – we recommend the Town focus not on smaller, part-time energy coordinator position but focus on sustainability, full-time, and save this money for that position.
McLoughlin – you want someone to do all these things?
Schoales – we have organizations working on many of these things, but what does it mean?
McLoughlin – I see this list and see an urban planner. I’d suggest this be in the Planning Department. Many of these things overlap what the planning department does. It’s part of the Town Plan. Could go a long way toward goals we all share.
Quipp – when I look at this, I see equity and empowerment column here, with human services… my question is about process. What is the process? RTM approved the funds at our discretion? (yes) What is the process moving forward?
Schoales – an inclusive process – it’s about resilience, public meetings, talking about what we need to sustain the community. Both emergency and natural disasters as well as housing and human service issues. Similar to our job searches.
Elwell – the decision making process to get you to a path to move forward – there is ongoing work in the community toward this position, plus work of town staff, and hope to have info by summer of 2019 so you can decide about creating the position. There is a decision once you know more, whether you wish to create the position or in other aspects of sustainability and energy. Middle of summer.
Starr – no decisions tonight, just conversation.
Schoales – state committee just passed a bill to to develop internet – up to $60k grants. Plus loans to bond with private providers. I’d like to talk more about exploring possibility of getting that grant and exploring fiber to every business and home in town. Bot sure if it has been thru the Senate yet.
Elwell – not adopted yet. We can discuss it more at next meeting.
Wessel – I want to acknowledge what we have been doing for energy and sustainability. I wrote a letter to an editor and want to see how this helps the town – saving money or helping the world – I’m cautioning we understand what we are talking about. This coordinator position is a vacuum where ideas fall in and it gets amorphous to me. I need to see how this is an improvement over what we’re currently doing with current staff. A broader discussion on why this is necessary for Brattleboro.
Heller – first would be research and drawing up a position description, then the people who proposed this at town meeting want more resources applied to this problem. The position needs to be well thought out and make sense. I agree that these are important things. It may already be tackled, but we can always do more, and it seems the town would like to do more. There will be some things to save the town money, but some returns won’t be financial but important. Be careful how we measure success.
Quipp – who is currently involved in this work?
Heller – town staff and energy committee – me and Tom Franks – not officially drawing this up, but have been offering to help. Some others want to help. Come to next Energy Committee mtg on may 13th at Co-op at 5:30 pm. Open meeting. Anyone can go to town staff or selectboard with ideas.
Spoon Agave – I’d like to reiterate what I said at Town meeting that we are in exp=traordinary times – we don’t know how close we are to what kind of disasters from melting, pollution, plastic in oceans… what is needed now from Selectboard is leadership – being able to recognize the energy and interest of a fair number of people in town to get involved on a serious basis and level – to open doors, speed things through, guide things through. That’s what leadership is about. Avoid procrastination from uncertainty. There isa groundswell among people with concern about the future. That’s a lot of energy and will need guidance and assistance in every way. Put fears aside and take some chance. Make some tight deadlines, move things along faster. I was hoping we’d have someone on the job by July 1, but asap.
Tony Duncan – I strongly reinforce what Spoon was saying. This is an incredibly huge crisis that we don’t see every day. We do know that consequences can be devastating. We have an administration and political party that denies science on this. It’s really important that communities can say that this is a big deal. I’m open to other ways to spend the money, but a person in a position of authority makes senses to me. ASAP. Try to have a person by July 1 or as soon as possible. Community needs to take this very seriously. There are a number of issues. The chart on the handout is daunting – so many issues. I’m willing to put my time in and other citizens, too, to move this forward.
Franz Reichsman – in most parts of the country I’d by a crazy liberal -but in Brattleboro I’m an old guy conservative. Don’t waste this money. There is a risk to prematurely beginning a program – take the time to develop something with best chance of success.
Tony Duncan – I agree – I don’t think we should rush and do anything. Person must be effective. We need to look at issues – what we are doing and what will work and be a model for other communities to use. We do need to move as quickly as we can, though.
Wessel – As for myself – climate change is real, partially caused by human activity. No one up on this board would dispute the science. It’s ridiculous to debate if it is real. We believe this is a real phenomenon. The real rubber hitting the road is how can we affect change with limited resources. I don’t want to throw money at a feel-good activity. If I don’t see how this will be an effective tool, I’m not going to vote for it. leadership is making hard decisions about the community, and not a symbol. I don’t want to send money on a symbol. All I’m asking for.
Schoales – this isn’t new. Other places have done this and many in community know how to affect change. I wouldn’t vote for what you describe, and I haven’t heard anyone ask for that.
Spoon – I’m not trying to change the world from here. What we’re trying to do is reduce our own environmental impact to the greatest degree we can, and along the way observing what’s going on in the world and how that changes migrations and climate. And develop responses. This is what we need that professional for – to bring in to us all the things that are happening to us. Putney already has its transition town thing going. Maybe our effort becomes a regional affair, then a state affair. We have to do everything we can for ourselves, and be prepared for what we agree is coming our way.
Quipp – Town staff has been paying attention. Steve Barrett has mentioned impacts of changing climate. All town staff are responsible professional people doing good job. I’ve spent some of my time doing climate activism. This board won’t kick this down the road, but I wan’t a really good proposal with all stakeholders involved.
Rikki Risatti – I’d like to hear make sure there is enough money when talking about budgets. Need to stimulate and stabilize greater economic equality.
Stroll Parade and Open Air Permit and Tour de Heifer
Anne and Orly return.
Orly – Stroll is more than a parade. It’s our fundraiser. Pays for our programs. This year’s Stroll will feature an NPR reporter. Friday night has a new twist – to have festivities on the Commons.
Anne – we’ll have vendors and others at Common. Not just a craft fair. Great local bands. All during Gallery Walk. We have a bus to take people away from downtown and to our event at the Common until 9 pm. We count on it being perfect weather.
McLoughlin – are downtown businesses looking forward to this? (I think they would)
Anne – haven’t worked with them on this. Part of decision was the fire department’s suggestion. Propane tanks need an extra 10 feet. Downtown won’t be blocked. Easier for vendors to set up and stay.
Orly – we’re testing it this year. It’ s a community event. Anyone can volunteer. If this doesn’t work out, we’ll think of different things.
McLoughlin – I think it is an improvement.
Orly – Sat is 18th year capstone event for farmers. To see town welcome and greet farmers is heartwarming. Farmers have tears in their eyes because people salute them. People even come out in the rain. An exciting community celebrations. Farmers are the anchor of our community. That’s why we all live here. The theme this year is ‘Farmers are Heroes’ – come in super hero costume. Parade is wonderful and people come from far away to see parade.
Starr – can you talk of dedication to health and well-being of animals?
Orly – Steven Major is vet from green man bovine. He knows animals that come to parade. he checks every one that comes. Must have paperwork and health records reviewed. He can disqualify. Vets march in parade. We have lots of food and water, animals are brushed, loved and hugged by owners. When parade is going, vet follows them. If animal has trouble, they’ll stop and put in animal ambulance. Water at end. It’s not a long route. About half a mile. So wonderful to see 4-H kids with animals. Much time put into it and well thought out.
Orly – the parade this year will go up Linden street and turn where Common is and end by RT 5. Using courthouse parking lot and law firm parking lot and American Legion parking lot and Health Building parking lot on Saturday. Hard for some to walk down to Retreat Grounds, so change could be good. Sunday is Tour de Heifer rides. Farmers breakfast at Marina. Farm tours, too.
Anne – about the parade going a different route – pick out your seat on Municipal Center lawn. We’ve beefed up parking shuttles. Park out at edges and use free shuttles. We’re using many downtown parking lots for vendors.
Orly – people love the 15 minute shuttle loops. You can leave town quickly.
McLoughlin – busses are sustainable!
and, anyway… (they are talking compost details, and Orly thanks the town, it’s all about safety, and teamwork)
David Hiller – impressive to reach 18 years. Event brings in thousands – they come and go. This is closer to town than before which is fantastic. Also using more local vendors this year. Fantastic. This parade, in this day and age with strife – all these people have a great time. Even the cows get love. Thanks.
Rikki Risatti – does Strolling of Heifers parade endorse treating animals as entertainment?
Orly – depends on definition – we celebrate animals as we celebrate people.
Rikki – I boycotted last year and saw photos after. People were pushing and pulling animals. They didn’t;t look comfortable away from farm? Any comments?
Anne – I can share more photos of people happy afterward with content cows. Sometimes they stop, but we have people on hand for distress. It’s loving and safe. This isn’t for entertainment. No tigers jumping through hoops.
Rikki – just because an animal may not resist being touched – they can’t consent to being touched by strangers.
Anne – tase animals are socialized and used to people. They are really happy.
no surprise… permits approved!
Compliance isn’t happiness
I love this parade but I honestly can’t imagine that most of the animals on parade are comfortable or happy to be in that situation.
( the possible exception might be the baby goats who just seem to be happy anywhere!)
Cows walking on hard, asphalt roads with large crowds of people and loud bands is far from an ideal situation for any animals.
I have great respect and admiration for farmers and the 4H kids but some thought should be put into having the parade without forcing animals to march. Display them on the Common where there’s grass and shade and less noise. To say that the cows are “ happy” during this event is a little presumptuous. We have no way of knowing if they’re happy, resigned or miserable and frightened. I’ve seen several animals over the years try to turn around and head back or to break away from the person leading them. That doesn’t say happy to me. I know it’s a long held tradition in town but just because something has been done for a long time doesn’t make it right or good to do.
But, The Pasturing of the Heifers...
…. wouldn’t have the same tourist draw, now would it? : )
The name, Strolling of the Heifers, I think is supposed to conjure up and contrast with Running of the Bulls, too.
I like your idea to keep them out of the parade but let them come visit town more comfortably in the shade. The parade could then get a bit louder – bands, more farm equipment and tractors, and so on.
You know what would be nice to see marching up Main Street? Another Alumni Reunion parade! Remember those?
How about “ Cows Just Chillin”?
I think you’re right that the name is supposed to conjure up a more friendly version of running of the bulls. But, we all know what terrible ends come to both bulls and human partisans in that infamous event. Personally, one of my favorite parts of the Stroll is going to the Common after the parade and getting to see and maybe pat a cow or fluffy alpaca or one of those little joyful goats. Much more enjoyable than watching a 10 year old struggle to control a reluctant cow who just wants to be somewhere else.
I’m not sure it’s worth forcing farm animals ( or any animal for that matter) to walk in a parade on hard, unyielding asphalt in a chaotic situation to merely do justice to the name of the event.
I think as more people come to the realization that animals don’t owe us any entertainment you’ll see fewer and fewer events that use animals in this way. If people are only going to the parade to see farm animals take a ride or a walk around town. Lots of lovely farm creatures to be admired in their own pastures- living the life.
Monthly Finance Report with John O'Connor.
John O’Connor offers up the report.
Finance Report for March 2019
75% of the fiscal year is complete. The General Fund stands at 74.7% of the annual budget. Utilities are at 70.8% and the Parking Fund is at 80.9%, up due to new meters and pay boxes.
Solid Waste Fund revenues are at 70.2% and expenditures at 68.9% of their annual budgets.
$4,193,147 has been loaned out by the Town, and $649,267 is available for additional grants and loans.
There are 44 active grants and 5 being developed.
Quipp – in Utilities fund – a line item for other operating expenses – it’s $23,000… what is that?
O’Connor – I’ll find out and get back.
McLoughlin – banner income for fire department?
Buccossi – for hanging banners on Main Street.
Elwell – these are annual requirements from auditors.
O’Connor – “2019 Financial Management Questionaire” and more detailed “Municipal Checklist for Internal Control.” The questionnaire is for the state, and the checklist is for auditors. Pretty straightforward. We have good internal controls.
Schoales – near the end – electronic computing – what security do we have?
O’Connor – We’ve never had an issue transferring funds. We have adequate protection.
Starr – encrypted tunnels.
Schools – battlestar galactica never networked their computers, and they lived!
Rikki – Risatti – is questionnaires only answered in private session?
Elwell – In this public session. Documents available for you.
lists approved for signing!
Long Falls Paperboard
Elwell – Used to be Nenah Paper and now Long Falls paperboard. Town plays support role in brownfields cleanup before funding comes along. Because state is involved, state wants their environmental consultant, so rather than use our pre-approved list of consultants, town need to piggyback on state’s contract. We’re asking to do this, but with state’s contractor.
McLoughlin – we’ve often reviewed contracts in Planning. We think this state firm is highly qualified.
Wessel – does add to our list…
Elwell – this is a one-off project. We’ll work on our other brownfield projects.
McLoughlin – a nice collaboration with state and town. Town EPA funds are just to study, not clean-up.
Elwell – very likely that other support agencies will handle other phases.
Risatti – in situations when state is offering contractors, can town still offer a similar contractor so we can cooperate and compare methods?
Elwell – there are times when that could work, but in this case, the state wants to do it due to their funding.
Risatti – would state contractor work with town contractor?
Elwell – not on this project.
McLoughlin – there was a competitive bid.
Risatti – I appreciate keeping the state in check when they offer contractors.
Skatepark Bid Rejection & Major Donation
Carol Lolatte and Jeff Clark
Carol – we went out for bids and thought they’d come in high, and they did. Three bids received. Low bid was $284,895 from a Hardwick, VT company. The highest was $379,000 from a Canadian company from Calgary. BASIC has $201,595 in the account after paying $33,228 to park design firm Stantec. (There is a $9,122 remaining balance due, too.) About $96k in the hole.
An hour before this meeting, the VT community Foundation came through with $75k – hole is now $21k, so still not quite enough. We should reject these and we’d go back and rescope the project – maybe we can have town do some of the work.
Starr – glad you aren’t giving up.
Carol – over 100k from Nelson Withington Fund for this so far.
Wessel – you have tow close bids, is it handy to let all three know? Or ask them to meet the budget?
Carol – yes – we’d let all three know and invite all three to bid again.
Elwell – it was sealed bids, and no negotiation, and new specs will be put out for a new sealed bid.
Schoales – how long to rebid? Work done this summer?
Carol – within a month for bids, maybe work done by snowfall. Maybe earlier if lucky.
Jeff – thanks to Liz for years of service on committee. We’d like to reduce members from seven to five.
Franz Reichsman – if you rework the proposal, then the DPW will do the work?
Carol – some done by DPW, some by Parks & Recs?
Franz – from your budgets?
Carol – materials would come from project budget.
Elwell – and staff get paid by billing to other departments.
Franz – so- out of the General Fund? How much?
Elwell – with the latest grant, we think we can do it.
bids rejected and committee reduced.
Post-meeting observation - missed opportunity
A few items before, the Finance Director said there was $649,267 available for additional grants and loans.
The selectboard could have easily allocated the $20k or so remainder (as a grant or a loan) and been done with this. They could have accepted the low bid and been underway.
Local Emergency Management Plan for 2019
Mike Bucossi – many federal grants depend on having an up-to-date plan. It’s quite lengthy. More than emergency operations. It turns into a resource guide and checklist for staff.
Risatti – does this fit with federal plans and arrests? Is this related to federal compliance?
Elwell – not sure. No relation to this plan.
Ivan – is this available to public to read?
Bucossi – yes you can look at it in town offices.
Public Works State Annual Financial Plan
Barrett – used to determine state funding for roads. Requires we spend $300 per mile. We have about 85 miles and would need to spend $25,000. We usually get about $226k from state to put back into roads.
Quipp – what are the different classes of roads?
Barrett – Class 3 is a sidestreet like Whipple. Class II is a connector like Upper Dummerston. Class I are main highways in town like RT 9 and Rt 5.
Quipp – so 6.1 miles of class I roads – we get money because they are state roads?
Elwell – and more complicated.
Barrett – state comes up with formula for distributing funds.
Wessel – I thought classes had to deal with paved or not…
Barrett – Class IV are unpaved, often gravel, with little care.
Library Archive Grants
Starr LaTronica – Library wants to apply to Crosby-Gannet Fund for $1000 and the Dunham-Mason Fund for $500 to fund an archivist to organize local history materials at Brooks Memorial Library. Will help us sort things out and get us ready to go. A contract with an archivist!
grant application approved
Windham Regional Commission update
Liz McLoughlin and Sue Fillion were the WRC reps for the town for the previous year.
McLoughlin – I recently resigned. WRC provides planning and mapping services, works on Public Policy with legislators, Planning Coordination among towns, and brownfields, and pedestrian towns and the West River Trail, and the Hinsdale Bridge, and renewable energy grants, and… Red Clover Commons and housing partnerships, the Confluence Project…
Schoales – the renewable energy grant – has Groundworks applied for rooftop solar? They should get in touch.
Re-Adopt Municipal Policies & Codes (MP-1)
Elwell – annual document to be rectified – contains such items as Equal Employment Opportunity, Fair Housing, Use of Excessive Force, Code of Ethics and conflcts of interest, Drug-Free Workplaces, Subrecipient Oversight Monitoring. This has new requirement of Whistleblower Protection – town cannot retaliate against an employee or contractor for providing a good faith report to a public body.
Quipp – whistleblowers are good.
Risatti – would you please read the policy?
(Quipp reads first part… and McCloughlin reads part II)
Risatti – does this cover committee members? Residents?
Elwell – Not sure. Will check with town atty.
Fire Department responded to 19 overdoses in March. Police responded to 10.